December 28, 2007

Commentary:

Parents Thinking Critically

By Ernie McCray

Recently I sat at a meeting absolutely mesmerized by a number of Latina mothers who, with raised eyebrows and postures to match, spoke ever so eloquently and passionately in opposition to a JROTC rifle range that’s planned for Mission Bay High.

They energized me through and through as they wondered aloud why their children were being enrolled in JROTC involuntarily and why more information about the program isn’t given to them beyond just “sign on the dotted line” when their parental consent is required. They tried to understand, as did I, why a school would dare put weapons into their children’s hands, pellet or otherwise and, at the same time, claim “Zero Tolerance” for arms on campus.

It was so inspiring listening to them articulate an alternative to having their children sucked into the military via the JROTC: “Give us college prep classes and help with SAT’s and courses that will get our children into a J.C. or a U.C. or a State University.”

Oh, I had waited a lifetime for such a day when parents would stand firmly and say, “No way,’’ to those who would dare arm their children, especially considering what’s going on in the world today.

Now parents at Lincoln High are beginning to ask the same questions as their peers at Mission Bay because their sons and daughters are being lured into JROTC and offered weapons training too - on a campus that is but a blink away from where many a child has been shot to death by another child.

Parents resisting their kids being used for the realization of hawkish people’s hellish schemes is a reflection of my most sincere hopes and dreams.

The vision of human beings thinking critically is a wonderful scene, yet such thinking is amazingly rare in our free society. And schools do very little to counteract such a social travesty.

Now, to be fair, schools do encourage some critical thinking. Sex education classes, for instance, often help students make a wise choice or two. An econ class might motivate a student here and there to learn how to shop around for money transactions that are safe and sound. But when it comes to facilitating experiences for students that might compel them to look around the world and see what’s really seriously going down, schools are pretty much nowhere to be found.

Take Mission Bay. At a time when more than ever a generation needs classes that delve into ideals of social justice and approaches to relating to others in peace and harmony, they’re offered a rifle range for JROTC? Where a water athletics pool was supposed to be? Is this wise considering that many teenagers are thousands of miles away fighting a war that, in reality, just happens to be about as immoral and illegal as a war can possibly be? Is the school trying to assist the military subliminally in helping children “be all they can be?” Clear headed critical thinking in this scenario is harder to find than Waldo.

But we San Diegans need to know that Chicago City Schools, in the wake of shootings at Columbine and other places, decided they couldn’t be tough on violence, on one hand, and sponsor a marksmanship curriculum on the other hand. So they ended their riflery program about 8 years ago. That, I would say, is critical thinking at its best.

Now I suspect that the parents I just met won’t accept anything less from our Board of Trustees and neither should we. We should follow their lead.

And somewhere down the line, after the rifles are laid to rest, we might, as a community, consider questioning the very idea of JROTC in our schools - for the wellbeing of our children.

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